How on board electronics are aligning with tablets and smartphones

The Vulcan9 Sailsteer and iPad in use

Alan Davis, Product Line Director B&G, looks at aligning portable devices with built-in electronics.

The growth of tablets and smartphones has opened up a huge opportunity for sailors to view and control their navigation data on board.

At face value a tablet offers a low-cost, portable way to view charts, navigation information and instrument data from anywhere on board, but they have their disadvantages too. Most tablets do not have sunlight-viewable displays, are not waterproof without a case and are vulnerable to damage – potentially leaving you without any navigation data should it break or be damaged.


For waterproofing, sunlight viewability and ruggedness, modern chartplotters are in a league of their own – but they are fixed in one location. Marine electronics manufacturers have responded by adding functionality to their products that allows users to connect a tablet or smartphone to the plotter.

B&G’s range of Vulcan and Zeus chartplotters, for example, allow users to connect a tablet or smartphone. By downloading the free Link App from your Apple or Android device’s app store, you can view and control the screen of your chartplotter from anywhere on board. The mobile device connects to the chartplotter’s built-in WiFi network, from where it can take its data and mirror the screen.

But it is not just viewing the screen – the latest app allows you to manage and back-up device settings, waypoints and routes, and also to download and enable software updates using the mobile device’s data connection.

This means that you can have a waterproof, rugged, sunlight-viewable chartplotter mounted permanently in the cockpit, with a tablet repeating the information at the chart table. Down below, the screen can be seen, it is less vulnerable to knocks and it can be plugged in to charge.


B&G also allows third party app developers to make use of the available data. New this spring is the Watch Leader app, developed by Osprey Technical, for use with B&G instrument networks. This takes the instrument data from a Vulcan or Zeus chartplotter’s WiFi connection and displays it on an Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad. You can customise the display so that you have access to the data you need.

Tablets and smartphones have opened up the previously closed world of on board instrument networks, allowing you to take advantage of the versatility of the portable device while enjoying the full features and rugged build of the built-in chartplotter and instruments. Together they offer the best of both worlds.